The Los Angeles Kings have signed restricted free agent Adrian Kempe to a three-year contract worth a total of $6MM. The young forward was the final RFA the Kings had to sign and will be arbitration eligible when the deal expires.
Kempe, 22, was originally selected in the first round of the 2014 draft and has now been a full-time NHL roster player for two years. After a nice season in 2017-18 when he showed his upside with 16 goals and 37 points, his offensive production dried up a bit last year. Transitioning to center, Kempe recorded just 12 goals and 28 points on a Kings team that struggled to find much success. The fact that they’ve now locked him in at a very reasonable number coming off that down season leaves plenty of room for Los Angeles to receive excess value from this contract, especially if Kempe can take over as the team’s second-line center at some point.
To do that though, Kempe does need to bring more consistency to his game and be a threat more often in the offensive zone. At the international level the Swedish forward has shown he can be an extremely dangerous player with the puck, something that has to come out every night in the NHL. An excellent skater that has the size and skill to win one-on-one battles anywhere on the ice, there’s no reason why he can’t experience a breakout at some point during the length of this deal.
That’s what Los Angeles will hope for as they try to transition their team to a younger, more skilled group. The bruising, defensive, puck-control hockey that brought them so much success over the last ten years failed them last year when they dealt with injuries and inconsistency, meaning new head coach Todd McLellan will need to find a new way to compete in the Western Conference. Kempe and other young forwards will likely be given an opportunity to make a bigger impact this season, though they’ll need to prove they can carry the load early on.